—U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says decades of diplomacy with North Korea over its nuclear-weapons program have failed, and the use of the military option is among those “on the table.”
—GCHQ is denying a claim by the White House spokesman that it helped the Obama administration spy on Donald Trump. Any confirmation or denial by the U.K. spy agency is highly unusual.
—German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with Trump at the White House today. It’s their first meeting since the election.
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se in Seoul on Friday (Reuters)
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the military “option’s on the table” if North Korea escalates its nuclear-weapons program “to a level that we believe requires action.” He also ruled out talks with the North, noting that two decades of diplomacy had yielded little. The comments, which were made in South Korea, come at a delicate time: North Korea has carried out nuclear and missile tests in violation of its treaty obligations and much to the worry of Japan and South Korea, with which the North technically remains in a state of war; the U.S. has deployed a missile system to South Korea, a move that’s sure to incense the North, but which has also angered China, which views the system as a threat; and the ouster of South Korea’s president means fresh election in May that could bring to power a candidate who is keener on closer ties with Pyongyang. I’ll note here that Tillerson’s remarks about the military option being “on the table” are quite typical in diplomacy and have been used by American secretaries of state as well as presidents from both parties. Indeed, the Obama administration had used that exact phrase in 2012 while discussing Iran.